Mar 28, 2013

Cafe Luna's Spring Menu

Cafe Luna's April Menu

 Double-Click Here for Our Current Menu

 We can't wait:  the farmers and the growers around the area have given us the indication that we will be having an incredible season of vegetables and fruits soon.  The exciting part is these growers are producing some new varieties to show us:  more intense flavors, more color, more choices.....
what's a chef to do????

Keep you posted on our adventures......

Jan 5, 2013

January Rants & Raves 2013

Hello All!  Welcome to the new year....

Another year on my belt....
Another year in Cafe Luna Land, this will be out 18th year in operation...

for a little business that started out opening April 8th, 1995 in the tiny little area that is now know as "Creekside Salon" that was supposed to be a lunch-only establishment, things have changed (as they do....) over the years.

Our first day opening, we served a free lunch off a menu for the merchants on Main Street, and invited them to come check us out. 
We had bowls of fresh Portabella mushrooms, platters of raw Pasilla chiles, bunches of fresh cilantro and a big blue bowl full of Meyer lemons and limes out. 
Were we ever the movers and shakers then....literally had our visitors marvelling at those items that -at the time- were mysteriously new to so many people (it was '95 you know, before Smart Phones and all....)
'Where did you get those giant mushrooms?' I was asked. 
'I grew them myself', I lied 'using the manure from the Scottish Highland Hairy Cows we have on the farm' another lie - we didn't have a farm....(why oh why do I feel this need to please strangers?)
'And why are those lemons so bright yellow?  Are they imported?'
'Why yes.  Yes they are' was the only thing I could think of saying (all the way from my Aunt and Uncles house in Granite Bay....).  'In the beautiful land of Boliviana, everything grows sweeter and brighter there....and tastes better too.'
'Well, I hope you have some Ah-mer-a-kin food too.'
'We will', I expressed, 'we will.....See?  There's a turkey sandwich on the menu with a Chipotle/orange aioli and Sherry vinegar roasted onions with avocado slices.'
It was at that point that I noticed I was being looked at askance.......
It hasn't stopped.....
going on 18 years now...

Thanks for the support and the stares.....

From the bottom of my Chipotle-chile filled heart....
So as a merchant, I am not supposed to say this: 

I'm glad the holidaze are over.

Cleansed.  Flushed.  Purged.....
I said it.
When you are in business, we don't often get the benefit of enjoying the holidays, because we are so busy with our lovely customers who are having a wonderful time enjoying dinners out with friends and family.
We have to wait until they are over (and we close) to start to enjoy them. 
I'm not complaining at all, this is what we are used to, now that we have been doing the same thing for the last 38 years (we had another restaurant you see....) and it seems we (me really) get it all done in a 2 day period:  planning the family dinner, buying the gifts, wrapping the gifts ('but Gary, you do such a better job wrapping than I do...'). Cooking the dinner, thinking about making the appetizers (Stuffed mushrooms with Proscuitto, hazelnuts and Gruyere; bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with Gorgonzola; Garlic and roasted red pepper humus with Chinese peppercorn dusted pitas....) making dessert, opening the wine (why yes, we do start that sometimes earlier than we should, but hell:  it is 5:00 in London...), cooking some more, drinking another bottle of wine (Mogan David really is better chilled.....and it is 6:00 in London now...), thinking 'Does my family really want three kinds of appetizers?', and then finally just getting the music blaring and dancing around the kitchen to Mariah Carey Christmas songs ("All I Want for Christmas Is YOU,,,,Baaay-bee") and getting into a major discussion as to how many artists really were singing on that English Band-Aid song ("Do They Know It's Christmas") and then finally wondering why no one can do a better version of silent night than Nat King Cole....
And then the doorbell rings:
What tha?
whaddaya mean it's time for dinner?
'Velveeta and Salsa anyone?

And thus, Christmas Eve at the house begins.....
and that Mariah Carey songs plays over and over again, and Gary and I look across the room at each other and wink....and break out the bubbly....

ahh....the holidaze.....
So I am like a nut-job running around the yard, trying to figure out what to cover during these frost-bitten nights we are having....
Why oh why did I decide that our little bit of backyard heaven should be full of potted Succulents from much warmer climates? 

Yes, I know they are low maintenance, but winter time?  They don't like the cold?  Who-da-thunk that they would not like out zone 9b climate???  Cover them up, uncover them, listen to the forecast, listen to the new-revised forecast, then the last minute forecast (come back full-time Eileen Javora!!! You never lied!!!)

You could just get dizzy from all the flapping I do with my frost-covers....
and what do you mean my lemon and lime trees need to be covered to?  do you know how big they are???
So we had a wonderful, fun and happy New Years Eve here at the old Cafe Luna.  Full to capacity (a curse on you no-shows) with nothing but happy revelers who were just having fun, good food and libations.  Surprisingly, very little sparkling wine was served but rather tons of wine.  Things are changing here in California.....

We had a dish on the nights menu inspired by a good friend, Carmel Travers, that I named 'Pasta Carmella'.
She and her husband Glenn asked me years ago what I do with all the shrimp shells we save, and I told her we make Shrimp Butter with it. 

Shrimp Butter you say?  What is it good for?

Save all your shirmp shells in a bag in the freezer.  When you have a whole slew of them (Whole Slew = 8- 12 cups) you cook down the shells with white wine and/or stock, leeks, carrots, onions, garlic etc., strain it and reduce it down again, then add one pound of unsalted butter to this, and let it cool. 
Use this for a base for sauces or what-ever you want.

At that point talking to her, I realized how we in the restaurant industry take for granted everyone knows what we are talking about.

You don't.
I understand that now.

I know from my long life here on earth that there are many incredible cooks out there who rely on recipes to cook and the must follow them to a T.  I know that their creativity comes from making a recipe over and over again until they are comfortable to waver from the original, and then tweak it a bit to make it their own.

Thus 'Pasta Carmella' came about for Carmel and Glenn to play with.

I loved a show on the Food TV Network called 'Secrets of a Restaurant Chef' with a crazy-assed big-spiky-blonde-haired lady, Anne Burrell who said one of the wisest and most valuable tricks of the trade I know of:  'You bought it, don't waste it'.  That is a trick we use in restaurants all the time:  what to do with by-products.

By-Products?  What the heck are those? 

Well you see, all the things we have left over from making something else:  the peelings of carrots, the ends of onions, the skin of fresh ginger, the skin and bones of a chicken, the sticky stuff on the bottom of the pan we just sauteed the bacon in, the hard ends of a rind of Parmesan cheese, the shells from prawns, lobster or crab.....
Get the picture? 
We make wonderful stocks from vegetable trimmings.
Wonderful stocks that we de-fat from the skin and roasted bones of chicken, meats, etc.

And we make shrimp/lobster/crab butter with our shells....
It is so easy, and versatile that we take for granted you know what we mean.

In my hippy-dippy daze, there was this woman I have referred to many times:  Adelle Davis, author of "Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit".  This book was an epiphany to so many of us who thought we had discovered the Holy Grail at the time, a book written in the 1950's about healthy eating and living.  (and no, I was not a hippy-dippy in the 50's {that would have made me a Beatnik}I am talking about late-late 60's early 70's - I am old, but not that old {yeah, tell that to a 20 year old}).

In this book she made a plan for 'end of the week soup' that I still find intriguing....she said to get two jars:  one jar for all the left-over gravy's, juices from your cooked vegetables, and little bits of what ever stocks/liquids/juices you used during your cooking week - thus your STOCK JAR.  The second jar was to contain your left-over bits of uneaten cooked vegetables, meats, eggs, even salad left-overs, etc. - thus your SOLIDS JAR. Place these two containers in the freezer and keep adding during the week, freezing it until you needed it for your end project.

Her premise was to make a soup using these ingredients at the end of the week.  The flavorful butter used from your sauteed green beans or carrots that are so full of flavor make an excellent STOCK that you can start a soup with. 
She would have us let them defrost, pour all of this into one pot, re-heat it and add a bit of cream if you wanted, or more of something else.  This was the FOUNDATION of the soup:  all the goodies you used during your week.  To make it more eye appealing, puree the heated soup to a smooth consistency and then add more of what you wanted if it need it. 

The FOUNDATION TO COOKING started with these left-overs (by-products).
So here is what I have done with the Shrimp Butter made from the Shrimp shells and the onions tops, the carrot peelings, and the leeks ends. 

I have included these two recipes, (see below) once again. 

We served the 'Pasta Carmella' on New Years Eve.  I served it with scallops, Rock Shrimp, medium prawns, and large Bay Shrimp tossed with Spaghettini pasta sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs (for a bit of crisp texture), and sprinkled with the lightest touch of Parmesan cheese and fresh black pepper on top.

We learn every day while cooking.
We get more confident, we grow as cooks, we branch out of our comfort zones.
We get to experiment, we win some, we toss some, we love some more than others, and we share what we love. 

And we all hope that we have a great experience just playing around in the kitchen.

Go forward my kitchen-kids, go forward.....
Sooo.....guess who got mentioned in that incredibly talented, very witty, insightful, perplexing and probably terribly handsome journalist Blair Anthony Robertson from the Sacramento Bee restaurant reviewer/life styler reporter for Northern California?

Yes, apparently he drinks allot of wine also.
Especially when reading my letters to you. 
BAR (that's what we call him you know...) wrote in last Sundays column about the highs of the 2012 dining scene. 

Me.  I got listed.....
If I could only reach around and pat myself of the back I would....but I can't. 
Author-write-us.....with age, it happens you know.....

So for that Mr. Robertson (who in the past I have likened to the good looks and charm of Cary Grant I am sure) thank you for the comments. 

I write, I cook, I laugh, I drink wine.
What could be better???


"A chef who can write: David Van Buskirk of Cafe Luna in Placerville not only does a very good job in the kitchen, he's a thoughtful and often hilarious writer. I look forward to his monthly "Rants and Raves" newsletter more than any other restaurant-related material...." 
((Text Link to the Sacramento Bee Article)

Take care all of you.  Strive to do something more than we did before, and better.
Be good to someone who wouldn't expect it.  And laugh with your mouth full.....
Hoping to see all of you in one way or another.
Please write and comment....
love 'em....

David at Cafe Luna
Placerville, CA
This Months Recipes

Please double Click on the Two Recipes Names Below
Shrimp Linguine
 January Menu for Cafe Luna
(double-click above for a link to the menu for printing)

New This Menu: 
The menus new items:

Pasta Carmella - As mentioned above:  A tribute to a good friend, a rich pasta dish of scallops and prawns , simmered in a rich lemon/basil cream sauce then served with Spaghettini pasta, topped with parsley and toasted bread crumbs. .

Our Rib Eye Steaks are now dry-aged for about two weeks.  Love what happens to this meat this way.  We are serving it with a roasted garlic butter and it is fabulous if I do say so myself.

Chicken Carbonara is on this months menu: boneless chicken breast, garlic, smoked peppered bacon, Parmesan cheese and an egg yolk emulsion.

Duck Breast - Pan-seared with a crispy skin, finished in a Pomegranate/blackberry and Balsamic reduction sauce, sliced and served with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.  31.

Orecchiette Pasta: 'Little Ears' pasta with fresh sage, pasilla chiles, ham, red skinned potatoes and Fontina cheese pan sauteed and then baked to form a 'cake' that is so satisfying.  We love this dish for many reasons.... 

Butternut Squash, Saffron, Pancetta & Mushroom Risotto - ✭ Italian Arborio rice slowly simmered with Pancetta bacon, corn and roasted butternut squash in rich saffron, white wine and vegetable stock until creamy, finished with fresh caramelized leeks, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms flavored with fresh basil, Parmesan and Mascarpone cheese and served drizzled with our basil oil.
This is wonderful for you Risotto lovers... 

Beef Short-Ribs   - Yes, it's the season for our Short Ribs.  We take meaty, boneless short-ribs, sear them and then simmer for six hours in a red wine, garlic and onion broth until fork-tender.   We are offering with either our mashed potatoes or our Polenta - made with Parmesan cheese to creamy goodness.,  I love winter...  

Did you know that more than 75% of our menu is Gluten Free?  All of you with these allergies can rest assured that you will have something to eat and be happy with.....this includes our desserts too!!!

Nov 14, 2012

November 2012 Menu
(Double-Click for PDF printable copy)

Here is a down-loadable copy of our current menu.  Call if  you have questions, we love talking to our customers....